Calling and Purpose

After starting out with a clear calling, that call is now stronger than ever. In the early days, as a philosophy major living in the nuclear age, I knew that the physical existence of this planet was in danger. My desire was to save the world, motivated by the empathy I had for suffering people. These weren't nameless people. They were the individuals I met in the inner cities of Tacoma and Washington, D.C. while in college and seminary. They were friends and loved ones, and they felt like family, crossing all ethnic lines. It was their pain and their love that led me to God. But, I soon found out that I'm not the one who does the saving. That is our Savior's purpose, Jesus Christ!

Today, the threat to our spiritual lives is not terrorism, nor has it ever been, for that matter. The threat comes from those who would water down the faith by replacing the Gospel of God's grace with a "gospel" of tolerance that denies sin itself (and therefore the need for salvation). A "gospel" that mistakenly presents the religions of the world as being on a level playing field without regard to the unique nature of the Bible's message of salvation through God's grace --a grace that is in Jesus alone.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17) This is God's plan in a nutshell!

If God's plan for our salvation and the salvation of the world is Jesus, then any plan that circumvents the centrality and uniqueness of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world is doomed to failure. In other words, because God is God, He will not let His plan be replaced because it's His plan, and no other plan is acceptable to Him. To state the obvious, IT'S GOD'S WORLD AND GOD CALLS THE SHOTS!

Therefore, God gave us His Son who comes to earth with full authority to represent God. Jesus, in flesh and blood...God, revealed in a man like one of us. It is only in Jesus that the love of God came to fullness in a human being. It is only in Jesus that we can be assured of the forgiveness of our sins, because he took the rap for us on the cross and covered us with God's grace forever. It is only in the resurrection of Jesus that we have hope in eternal life. And, it is only through faith in the gospel, the written Word, and the witness of those who saw with their own eyes the glory of God in the face of Jesus that we can be released from the curse of earning our way to heaven, and saved by the grace of God in Jesus who loves us just the way we are (but too much to let us stay that way!).

I thought in my younger days that if I just tried hard enough I could be perfect. Now that I'm older and wiser, I've come to know that my only perfection is faith in, and submission to, the Lord of the universe, "because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Romans 10:14) What other plan works like this one? None, in my view. In the words of the Christian songwriter, Rich Mullins, in his song, "Creed", I believe that "it is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man."

However, it's not my purpose here, nor should it ever be anyone's purpose, to put other people down for not believing in this plan. Faith, as my dad told me long ago, can be hard to come by. Faith in this plan comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as people are open to Him. I pray for all who are searching for answers in hopes of finding the truth. We are brothers and sisters in our pilgrimage, but the truth that is from God is the truth in Jesus Christ. He was more than a good man, more than a moral leader, more than an unconditional lover of all humankind; He was and is the Lord of Life who came straight from the Father with a message that demands FAITH. Love, indeed, is the "greatest of these" faith, hope, and love, but the answer we're all looking for BEGINS WITH FAITH, travels on HOPE, and is fulfilled in LOVE.

Without faith, I could not believe in the God we have never seen. Without faith I could not rejoice in the forgiveness and freedom given to me by the One who holds the keys. Without faith that St. Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus long after the Lord was crucified, I would have no hope that the Lord could also appear to me. Without faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the early church would never have gotten off the ground, because it was the power of the Holy Spirit that fell from heaven on those who saw the risen Lord with their own eyes that made ordinary men bold and eloquent beyond explanation, convincing crowds of thousands that the impossible had happened. The lame walked, the blind could see, and the dead were raised again! This is enough to convince even the most hardened doubter, if he or she would just once open the door of their heart to the truth that with God all things are possible. I know, because that hardened heart was me.

I my search for God, He found me before I was convinced of the divinity of Jesus. This can happen to any of us who are searching with mind and heart. Yet, I knew that the Christian faith was founded on the confession that "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16), and if you cut that out of the picture, you cut the heart out of the Christian faith! A house without a foundation will fall. Therefore, I've always preached what I knew had to be true until I believed it with all my heart. To preach anything else while calling myself a Christian would be hypocritical!

My desire is to lead people to more than just the table...I want to lead them to the feast! I have found so much more in Jesus than generic, watered-down faith in a faceless God. That is why I'm fired up as never before to sing the songs and preach the messeges the Lord has given me. Jesus is life, and Jesus is here, and I've finally come to know Him. To know the fullness of His love for this pitiful sinner who has been set free forever by His power! It's no longer religion... it's relationship! And when you come to know the indescribable JOY that runs so much deeper than happiness and comfort, you just want to tell the world about it. So forgive me, and all the other excited Christians you might have run into, if our exuberance is just a bit overwhelming.

This is my appeal, through the music and the witness; please try the path of Jesus. Take the journey through the scriptures and watch as the New Testament opens your eyes to the plan of God in Christ. It may take a long time, as it did me, or it may happen in an instant, depending on where we are in life, and how desperate. But it becomes life itself to know and believe in the saving power of Jesus. He won me over, full-tilt and no holds barred. That's why I'm an evangelist. I just can't help but talk about Jesus whenever people will let me.

And when I sense that they don't want to hear it, I respect others too much, and I love God too much to offend them with unsolicited advice and pressure. You can't force people. When Christians try that, it fails. Worse yet, it backfires, because it becomes obvious that love is not the moyivation, but a personal agenda of claiming a convert. People who know me know that I'm a gentle evangelist who remembers how it feels when someone wants to cram it down your throat. No, my purpose is simply to share the feast so that the hungry who want and need it will know where to turn.